The last closet: Sports
Tom Farrey,

Outside the Lines

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"When a football player loses his supreme confidence in his super-masculinity, he is in deep trouble."
-- Vince Lombardi

The story of gays and homophobia in sports involves everyone, for sports is how young people, especially boys, are socialized in America. So consider the following scenario:

One of your best friends in high school is gay. Not that he's open about it, with you or anyone else. In fact, he's made every effort to conceal his homosexuality, for he knows how this little sports-mad town in the Pennsylvania countryside, with more seats in the school gym than there are residents to sit in them, would react to having one of them in their midst.

As a companion to an Outside the Lines show on the same topic, looked at the world of gay athletes and the homophobia they face in sports.

From Dec. 16-18, new stories were published on the service along with multimedia, chat sessions and polls. Check them out by clicking on the links at left.

So, he dates girls, cheerleaders even. He grunts with the guys in the locker room, as teammates on the football and wrestling teams tell the usual lies about which girl they slept with last night. He's aware of gay magazines -- but of course doesn't subscribe, lest his parents find out. The only outlet for his secret is web sites on the Internet, which he surfs in solitude at home, with the door to his room shut.

Confused and depressed, tired of crying to himself to sleep at night about his impossible dilemma, he decides to kill himself. He takes 33 Tylenol tablets and goes to bed. Upset that he wakes up the next morning, he takes another 10 and is sent to the hospital, where eventually he tells his tale in confidence to doctors.

Your mother, or maybe your father, happens to work at the hospital. Whether by gossip or actually looking at the medical charts, she learns about your friend's sexuality. She brings this information home to you. It shocks and amazes you that this boy you've grown up with, someone you've tackled on a football field, whose family has shared good times with yours, is not exactly who you thought he was.

Here's the character test: His secret is now your secret. As he rests in the hospital's psychiatric ward, you are lord of your friend's present -- and future -- in Troy, Pa. You have the choice of sharing this news with your teammates, which will also serve to distance yourself from him, and any rumors that may come up about your relationship with him. Or you can honor your friendship, and keep it to yourself.

Honestly, if you're a teenage athlete, what do you do?
Keep quiet and support him
Keep quiet but distance yourself from him
Spread the word and distance yourself from him

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